mumbai, india: gender and income equality
Before coming to India, I had learned and read about the complexities and controversies involved with equality and women's rights in India. Upon being there, it was so interesting to observe first-hand and very eye-opening to digest the differences between cities.
I note this topic under Mumbai as we saw a lot of street art propelling these positive messages into the community. Mumbai, however, seemed the most progressive in this regard.
As I've mentioned before when writing on topics along the lines of these, I am humbly writing from my perspective (just one) and in hopes of sparking dialogue! There is a lot I do not know about this climate, however, I hope my experience at least gets you thinking. I'd love to hear from you, your perspective, as well.
Mumbai was the most diverse and international cities of the 5 we visited. It was the only city where Ali and I were not stopped to frequently take photos with people. This is very common to do with tourists- regardless of age or gender, I suppose given the uniqueness of their presence. Ali and I did, however, feel uncomfortable at times, especially with young men following us around to take our photo often without permission. This was not something we had experienced before so we were processing and taking it in.
In general, however, especially in Delhi and Agra, we were advised to not go outside after dark and to fully cover up. Coming from a culture where truly anything goes, it was an adjustment. I needed to buy new clothes as I did not have anything well suited. Even taking cabs late at night, we luckily had our Indian friends help us to ensure the cab would take us to the right place. In Goa, Dipti understood these women speaking Hindi were talking about me and Ali and what we were wearing even though it was very appropriate in most standards (all relative eh?). It made me appreciate the freedom that I have to walk around and wear what I want as I please when I please - a luxury to some. I understand this culture and these tendencies are rooted in hundreds of thousands of years of norms and traditions. Truly a beautiful thing and something to sustain, however, only with full equality at hand.
Given the levels domestic violence and sexual abuse in the country, as well, it made me think so much about safety. The first of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and an essential for all humans. It is devastating that this is so much of a concern, however, completely inspiring that people are on the ground working to protect women and improve women's rights.
From street art campaigning to respect women, to taxi stickers saying "this cab respects women" to the amazing organizations and people running grassroots campaigns on the ground (ie Dipti and Amnesty talking about sexual abuse on the subway with people as they pass through), there is so much positive change and goodness happening. Plus! There are so many amazing people in the world and this country! It will be incredible to see the continued progress to come.
Another topic that stuck was the income inequality that exists. Again, just through my perspective, however, from city to city, the poorest of the poor in dire circumstances were directly near to the most well-off. Of course this is not something unique to India, however, it potentially stood out more due to the high population, the visibility, etc? I am not exactly sure, however, the poverty witnessed was very upsetting. Ali and I got into a deep conversation on overpopulation, climate change and poverty all stemming from our world's finite resources.
As we walked through the streets, little kids were often tugging at our side asking for money for us to buy something. It absolutely broke our hearts. As Ali and I grew up together in a suburban community, we got to thinking (as we often do on travels), what makes this child born into these circumstances when I was brought up in something completely different and much healthier? It leaves you feeling so deeply and wanting to help.
Both Ali and I are incredibly passionate about the environment. Ali comes at it from a technical, engineering sense and me from a more marketing sense. I feel grateful for our talks about social issues, possible solutions and our desire to help other people's lives improve. We talk about how much social issues, such as poverty, are linked to climate change and the necessity and the importance of our globe. Our hope is to continue to learn and apply and hopefully help to make a difference in the world!